Now that the first week of the regular season has ended, with replacement officials playing the role of the real officials, will the NFL and the NFL Referees Association resume their discussions?
If they will, it hasn’t happened yet. League sources tell PFT there have been no developments in the negotiations.
It’s no surprise. Both sides are waiting for the other to blink. And both sides are likely trying to convince themselves that the other side should be blinking.
From the perspective of the locked-out officials, the replacements stink. One source on the regular officials’ side of the equation said that the Sunday night game between the Steelers and Broncos would have resulted in 30 “downgrades” of the officiating crew. The source said that, typically, there are roughly three total downgrades per game.
From the NFL’s perspective, that doesn’t matter. The replacement officials look the part, act the part, and sound the part. That’s what the league was looking for when locating potential replacement officials. And, after a shaky preseason, that’s what the NFL now has.
It’s all about how the games look on TV. If the officials look and act the same, fans won’t care.
The league also has identified the perfect P.R. strategy for dealing with mistakes: “The regular officials make mistakes, too.” As NBC officiating consultant Jim Daopoulos pointed out on Monday’s Pro Football Talk, a crew of regular officials gave a team a fourth time out in 2009, like the replacements did for the Seahawks on Sunday.
So unless and until the replacements find a new and innovative way to screw up — and if the mistake directly affects the outcome of a game — it will be hard for the locked-out officials to gain any leverage.
Even then, it may not happen. The NFL has become very good at circling the wagons. The NFL will only alter its formation if/when arrows are being fired from inside the circle. And if the NFL successfully keeps a muzzle on its key personnel, we’ll never even know that’s happening.